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Minn.'s ACGC School District embarks on first year at combined elementary

Marsha Morsching, a kindergarten teacher in the ACGC school district, gets her classroom ready Wednesday for the start of the semester. All of ACGC's K-4 graders will be taught at the school in Atwater after the school in Cosmos closed this spring. Morsching taught in Cosmos last year. Tribune photos by Carolyn Lange

ATWATER -- When the doors open Tuesday morning at the elementary school in Atwater, students will be greeted by new teachers, new classmates, a new computer lab, freshly painted classrooms and a new excitement about having all the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District's K-4 students and staff under one roof.

"It's pretty exciting," said Principal Kodi Goracke. "Everybody here kind of has a buzz."

At the end of school this spring, ACGC's elementary school in Cosmos was closed as a cost-saving measure. Starting this fall all of the district's students in kindergarten through fourth grade will attend class in Atwater.

The move meant hiring additional teachers, rearranging and refurbishing classrooms at the Atwater school and hauling desks, books and classroom equipment from Cosmos.

"It was quite a transition," said Goracke, praising the district's teachers for doing much of the painting in their classrooms and the custodians for working long hours all summer to get the building ready for the additional students and staff.

"It all went into place really well," she said. "It does look great."

Books from the two libraries are also being merged. "Our library has expanded greatly, which is wonderful," she said.

There is also a slight name change.

In the past the Atwater school was known as ACGC North and the Cosmos school was called ACGC South.

The Atwater school has been renamed ACGC Elementary.

The word "north" has been removed from the exterior brick wall and a revised stand-alone sign that's mounted on the street corner is being made to reflect the name change.

Administrators won't know the exact enrollment at ACGC Elementary until school begins on Tuesday. Goracke said a couple families who live in the Cosmos area have notified the district they are sending their children to a different district this year. She said the move was made because of where the parents worked and not necessarily because they disagreed with the school board's decision to close the Cosmos school.

When Cosmos closed, there were a total of 67 students in grades K-4. The Atwater school had 221 K-4 students for a total of 288.

So far it looks like elementary enrollment this fall will be about the same as it was this spring, with 284 student expected. But now the students will all be in one building.

An extra section has been added for each grade, with class sizes ranging from 16 to 21 students.

Goracke said the teachers and support staff from the two schools have been getting to know each other during summer in-service events and are excited about having fellow teachers in the same grade, which will make it easier to collaborate and share ideas for teaching the students.

Being under one roof means some staff, such as those teaching art, music, Spanish, and early childhood special education, will have more time to spend in classrooms rather than driving back and forth between the two schools.

"The road between here and Cosmos will be less traveled," said Goracke.

She said students may have a few "jitters" about the new arrangement, but she said the school and the staff are ready.

"The teachers are so prepared for them," she said. "It is pretty exciting."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750